Senior Staff Writer
It seems that Joe Rogan, host of the wildly popular podcast titled “The Joe Rogan Experience,” has become increasingly consumed with right-wing conspiracy theories regarding Covid-19 and the anti-vaccine stance. While Rogan has always had a propensity for both conspiracy theories and conservative politics, his podcast was previously dedicated to less controversial and more light hearted topics, such as martial arts, stand up comedy, aliens, elk hunting, or psychedelic drugs. However, in recent episodes, there has been a shift in both the content and the tone of Rogan’s show. More often than not, Rogan has demonstrated an anger and obsession with the on-going Covid-19 pandemic and vaccines.
I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I am a longtime avid listener of “The Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. As a young woman of left-leaning politics, I am certainly not Rogan’s intended audience. I disagree with almost everything the man says regarding politics. I have little to no interest in martial arts, elk hunting, or psychedelic drugs. However, I am an absolute sucker for a long-form interview, and quite frankly, Joe Rogan is the best long-form interviewer in the podcasting world. Due to his massive notoriety and platform, he has been able to interview a myriad of fascinating guests, such as Bernie Sanders, Elon Musk, Kanye West, Amanda Knox, and Edward Snowden. That being said, Joe Rogan’s podcast is not without its flaws. Rogan is notorious for letting his guests say outlandish and false claims with little to no push back. In recent episodes, it seems that he is now the one that is making the outlandish claims.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Rogan has been critical of federal and state Covid-19 restrictions. However, these complaints were more attuned with a general distrust for government regulation and large pharmaceutical companies. As a listener, it was annoying to hear these offbeat complaints, but they were few and far between. This all changed on September 1st, 2021, when Joe Rogan disclosed on his Instagram that he tested positive for Covid-19. In the Instagram live video, Rogan stated that he threw the “kitchen sink” at the virus, and went on to list a host of treatments, including Ivermectin. Due to Joe Rogan’s notoriety and open skepticism of the vaccine, multiple media organizations covered the story, including CNN. Several members of the CNN staff criticized Rogan’s use of Ivermectin. Most notably, there were claims that Joe Rogan was using “horse dewormer.”
These claims by CNN enraged Joe Rogan. In the months since the original airing of the CNN segment, Rogan has brought it up to his guests in almost every episode. No matter who the guest is, whether it is a comedian, MMA fighter, or respected academic, Rogan always finds an angle to bring up his criticisms of the virus or vaccine. In previous episodes of Joe’s podcast, he often stated that he was not against the vaccine, and that he even considered getting it. However, after the CNN debacle, Joe Rogan rhetoric has shifted to openly anti-vaccine, often citing sketchy research that suggests the Covid-19 vaccine causes medical complications.
It all hit a boiling point with Rogan when he welcomed Dr. Sanjay Gupta as a guest on the podcast. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is a practicing neurosurgeon and CNN’s medical correspondent. I was initially very relieved to see that Rogan was platforming a credible medical professional on the podcast. Especially since the previous episode of the podcast featured a three hour long conversation dedicated entirely to anti-vaccine rhetoric and dismissing public safety measures between Joe and Alex Berenson, a fiction author with no medical credentials. However, the conversation between Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Joe Rogan was not as productive as I had hoped. Around the 90 minute mark, Joe Rogan became frustrated with Dr. Gupta’s pro-vaccine stance and started fiercely debating the doctor on the medical validity of vaccines. Rogan resorted to raising his voice, continually cutting his guest off mid-sentence, citing unfounded research, and referring to anecdotal evidence. Dr. Sanjay Gupta remained calm and collected, which made it more difficult to listen to Rogan spin out as he tried to argue with the doctor. As a listener, this episode made me realize how deeply entrenched Rogan had become in the anti-vaccine viewpoint.
When addressing his critics, Rogan often states that he’s a comedian and what he says on the podcast is not to be taken seriously. Yet, it seems that Rogan rarely dedicates his podcast to comedy anymore, but more often than not to persuade his audience on an anti-vaccine stance. Joe Rogan’s massive platform makes his rhetoric dangerous, as he is spreading unfounded claims regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and anti-vaccine rhetoric to millions of listeners.